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In November I spent a week at the Optimum Health Institute (“OHI”) in San Diego, a place with a mission to “serve as a change agent for humankind by improving the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of everyone we touch”, and was inspired to write about it and how I’ve persisted in improving my health practices over my life through baby step after baby step.   This is the first part of a three-part series.

Health and optimism are important to opening up to your Unique Genius – I know it’s been vital to me.  Stress and anxiety block you from finding your purpose and making plenty of money at what fulfills you.

Optimum health is more than food and nutrition, and must include exercise, mind practices (like meditation) and spiritual practices (like finding your purpose).  This series focuses on the nutrition & food parts.

I’ll be sharing about some of the biggest nutrition changes I’ve made that I still practice, and a few of the new tools I picked up at OHI that I’ll add into my routine.  I’ll also about how I ain’t no saint, and still eat junk food and am more apt to criticize myself for not being perfect with food and health than be grateful for all the progress I’ve made over the years.

Back to OHI…I heard about OHI two years ago, after my friend Carl Bressler went and came back RAVING about it, and what it did for him and his health.  I don’t remember specifically what his results were, but I remember how excited he was about the experience and his new perspective on food and health.

The week included a regimen of raw food, classes, exercise, rest, wheatgrass and- yep – colonics/enemas.  Heh!  And they go through and teach you why all of this is important to your health.

This part of the blog post isn’t about recommending OHI as a place to go (go if you want, or not, it’s definitely not for everyone), but I am recommending going outside your comfort zone to try new things and experiences in order to improve your health.

What I Personally Got From My Week At OHI

  1. I was re-energized about my health practices, and reminded how important health is to life, and how much I and others take it for granted…until it starts fading.
  2. The red and dry skin on my face cleared up
  3. My dry scalp went totally away (I believe this is because the shower water there is filtered & dechlorinated here)
  4. I learned a lot about optimum health through mind, body and spirit
  5. I met a bunch of great people
  6. I got to deliver an early version of a new Unique Genius talk: “Authenticity: The Missing Link Between Money And Fulfillment

Example Success Stories

Some people go to OHI because they have life threatening conditions like cancer. (And, by the way, OHI has some amazing stories of people’s bodies healing themselves after getting off junk food and practicing OHI’s teachings).  Others go every few months just to recharge, detox and reconnect with helpful habits.

While I was there, some people in the program shared some stories.  For example, one man (about 70 years old) said that during his stay at OHI:

  1. His blood pressure went down enough that he had to stop taking his medication for it (he had a blood pressure testing cuff with him, and measured it every day)
  2. His eyesight improved – he had bifocals, and had to put them down to read (he still needed them to see farther away)

Another woman told us she’d been coming to OHI 2-3 times per year for 30 years, and that she was 65, and had never had any plastic surgery.   She looked like she was 50 years old!

How Kirsten Schulz Is Beating Stage 4 Cancer

Here’s an extreme example of what optimum health practices can do for someone even with a life-threatening condition.

On the day I left OHI, Kirsten here shared her story of being diagnosed with cancer in February 2010, and was given a few weeks to live.  It’d already spread through several vital organs.  Kirsten didn’t go with chemotherapy or surgery, and instead chose to focus on the kinds of health practices taught at OHI, and spent months living at OHI on their detox program.  Nine months later, her cancer is in retreat.

By the way, my belief is that neither conventional doctors nor alternative practices alone have all the answers.  They can be complimentary rather than competitive, like capitalism and Buddhism.

I mean, when I found out I had skin cancer on my nose, I had the damn stuff cut out by a dermatologist surgeon.  I wasn’t going to try to heal just through nutrition and mental practices.  But that’s me.  And whatever health issue I get in the future, I’ll use a blend of eastern and western practices, rather than avoiding one or the other.

Another personal story: I had an aunt who was devout Christian Science, the “heal only through prayer not through doctors religion”.  Her belief did not change the course of her breast cancer, and she died as expected 🙁    Of course, I have a great-aunt who’s now close to 90 and has never been treated by a doctor in her life, and she’s going strong.  Go figure.

The point?  Don’t follow others’ rigid beliefs!  You need to try different things to find out what blend works for YOU.  You can’t turn off your brain and live unconsciously and expect the happiness and results you want.

(which applies too in finding and living your Unique Genius)

Finally, don’t believe what you hear – such as that “you have ___ months to live” – just because someone (either a doctor or alternative health practitioner) has a degree or certification – those people are PEOPLE and that means they make mistakes and get stuff wrong ALL THE TIME.  Do your own research, get third opinions and focus on the mental belief that you can heal.  Your mindset affects how you heal.

Now here’s Kirsten with her story:

New Practices I Learned At OHI I’m Adopting:

So I learned a TON about health and practices and OHI, and here are the few most important & practical things I’m implementing at home…

  1. “Eat while I eat”: Too often we eat while watching TV, driving, working or rushing around.  When we do this, our bodies and minds don’t really register that we’ve even eaten (and we don’t enjoy it!), leading to more overeating.
  2. Farmers Markets are #1: Shop for food as much as possible at local farmers markets and through Community Supported Agriculture (
  3. Soak & sprout seeds, beans & nuts to greatly increases the nutrients and digestibility of things like seeds and grains. (Sprouting 101)
  4. “Food Combining”: Your body has a lot of trouble digesting some types of food when you eat them at the same time, like protein (meat) and starch (potatoes), causing upset stomach, gas and low energy.  Food Combining means being aware of the types of food you eat in one meal, so they don’t fight it out in your gut. (Food Combining 101)
  5. Not eating close to bedtime: OHI recommended eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime, so that digesting doesn’t disturb your sleep.  I have a watch that can track how deeply I sleep (, and I found at OHI that I slept MUCH better if I didn’t eat for 2-3 hours before I went to sleep.

This is great stuff!

Progress, Not Perfection

Now that I’ve been home for a few weeks since OHI, I’ve been ok at implementing these – but not perfect.  It takes time to change habits, and I’m doing my best in improving my nutrition AND being kind to myself and not beating myself up when I don’t do these changes perfectly.

In fact, right after I hit “publish” I’m going to go for a long walk and get some ridiculously amazing hot chocolate at a local place here in Santa Monica called Huckleberry 🙂  Hey, I am only human!!

This is about PROGRESS, not PERFECTION – something my clients must be sick of hearing me say since that too is a fundamental lesson in making money through enjoyment through your Unique Genius 🙂

Stay tuned for part 2 –  I’ll review the major nutrition changes I’ve made over my life and share my take on raw vs cook, plants vs meat, and organic vs inorganic.

Do You Have A Story To Share?

Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

Related: Posts About A 100% Fruit & Veggie Cleanse I Did:

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7 Responses to “Baby Steps To Being A Lean, Mean, Optimum Nutrition Machine (Part 1 of 3)”

  1. Eliot Burdett Says:

    Awesome post Aaron! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Tueykay Says:

    You have shared a wonderful self evaluation!

    I want to lovingly remind you to allow 5-10% grace in your eating habits. In all forms of dieting and eating habits, one must allow 5-10% of what I call the “Forgive Me, I am Human” portion of your eating. Unless you are training for an Olympic/ Professional competition, a craving for popcorn, pizza or chocolate need not be seen as “I am a bad person”. Acknowledge the craving, eat the craved food item with complete enjoyment, then get back on course right away.

    Hope this helps and congratulations on your path to Health!

    Tueykay, L.Ac.

  3. Allen Pierce Says:

    Thanks for the post Aaron. There definitely is something to nutrition, mental focus and healing: To relate another story of someone beating fourth stage cancer….a few years ago, my mother, age 78 at the time, was diagnosed with fourth-stage bladder cancer. Ten years earlier, she had beaten the odds with colon cancer. The doctors all said “Lee”, the only option is to remove your bladder and give you an ostomy–you’ll live a fairly normal life”. She scheduled the surgery, but about 2 weeks before the surgery, she decided to go another route. She cancelled and decided to consult an “alternative practitioner” in Canada. We drove up to Toronto, and the practitioner examined her and said “you are so acidic…you have to change your diet”. So she went on juicing regimen for quite a while, and cut acidic things like citrus, tomatoes, etc… She also took certain natural supplements daily. A few months later, her regular doctors were dismayed to see that she was healed! They couldn’t explain it! It was not only the diet that made a difference, but also my mother’s 100% belief that she could beat this. There was a strong spiritual element to this healing as well. She is now 83 years old, cancer-free, and just published a book of short stories, which you can find on

    While I have great respect for the medical profession in this country, our medical training and conception of healing is very narrow. My new rule is to seek out a lot of different opinions if faced with a serious illness, because when one person says you’re finished, another person might be able to open a window to healing.

  4. Robert Says:

    Great post Aaron. Thanks!

  5. Evan Says:

    Be careful with that kind of diet Aaron. A cleansing diet can help you feel good but that doesn’t mean it is one you should stick to. And a diet for fighting a disease isn’t necessarily one you should stick to either.

    I am NOT saying raw food is a bad diet for you or anyone. I am saying to not decide and stop watching what suits your body. Though I will say to be very careful with hygiene on a raw food diet – you don’t have the cooking to kill any stray germs.

    I don’t recommend any diet to anyone. I tell them to start keeping a food diary and find out what works for them.

    Rules of thumb:
    Eat food at around body temperature so your body doesn’t have to use energy to generate the heat.
    Eat with joy – not stressed, with those you love and so on
    Pyramids or various food types are usually a good place to start
    Michael Pollan’s approach is a good place to start: eat food, mostly plants, not too much.
    The western diet leads to western diseases – it has too much sugar and fat. Work on not having so much of either or both. The Weston Price foundation is a good resource for the evils of the western diet.


  6. June Louks Says:

    Blend baby blend! Great Post Aaron!

  7. Barry Says:

    Hey Aaron,

    Glad to hear you’re pursuing your path to health and wellness. My biggest change the past two years was giving up STARCH. My trainer suggested I take a month off back in Jan ’09. I said, “OK, but I don’t know what that means.”

    Translation: No spuds, pasta, rice, bread.

    Took it off for a month and lost 10 lbs. Ditto the next three months. Lost 40 lbs in 4 months. Have gained back 20 but pants still fit more like when I was lighter so I think some of it may mean greater fitness (pants don’t lie–and they don’t really shrink either!).

    As others have suggested, I occasionally will have some fries, pizza, whatever, but not regularly. I used to eat a loaf of bread with dipping oil before the meal was even served. We have GREAT bread here in the SF Bay Area but I mostly avoid it–and go easy when I enjoy it.

    I thought giving up all this stuff would be hard but it proved to much easier for me than expected. Hope this helps.

    Keep up the good work. Happy Holidays!


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